Archive for March, 2012

Ouachita Parish Police Jury Monday

03/31/2012

The Ouachita Parish Police Jury (OPPJ) will meet in regular session, Monday, April 2, 5:30 PM, parish court house, second floor.

See here the agenda.

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Gilmore/Stevens Convictions Reinstated

03/29/2012

In a stunning ruling made public today, Chief U. S. District Judge Robert “Robbie” James overturned his own ruling of last September that set aside the guilty verdicts on City of Monroe councilmen Arthur Gilmore and Robert “Red” Stevens.

Based on the testimony of its witnesses, the Government contends that all of Deshotels’ allegations are false, and the Court can no longer rely on those allegations to justify a new trial. Now that the Government has challenged Deshotels’ characterization of the property transfers, the Court agrees that it cannot accept those characterizations as true, as it did in its September 14, 2011 ruling, but must consider all the evidence.

In its Ruling on Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss or for New Trial, the Court concluded that evidence of Hakim’s alleged fraudulent tax activities was material, in part, because Hakim’s knowledge of his own activities provided motivation for him to assist the FBI. The Court further concluded that Deshotels’ allegations and the IRS primary criminal investigation provided an additional basis for attacking Hakim’s credibility and reputation. Those determinations no longer stand.

Evidence of the property transfers to and from Moses may well have been “useful to the defense” to further impeach the Hakims’ testimony, but the evidence was “not likely to have changed the verdict,” Giglio, 405 U.S. at 154, nor is there a “reasonable probability that it would have affected the judgment of the jury.” Wall, 389 F.3d at 473.

See here the order.
See here the ruling.

New Filings in Essmeier v Jonesboro

03/29/2012

There are several new filings in Essmeier v Jonesboro, the lawsuit filed last March by three Jonesboro residents against the Town of Jonesboro, the mayor, and three of the town’s Board of Aldermen.

The plaintiffs assert that their appeal to Louisiana’s Court of Appeals, Second Circuit were “perfected” as required. Another motion asserts any action regarding the suit is already “stayed” as a result of a district court ruling last August.

See here the documents:

Amended and Supplemental Answer to Paragraph 4
Dilatory Exception of Prematurity
Defendants Memorandum in Support

The original suit would prohibit the town from making any expenditures under ordinance #700 and #701.

See here the plaintiff’s response:

Opposition to Supplemental
Memorandum in Opposition

Attorney for the plaintiffs is Jonesboro’s Bobby Culpepper. Attorney for the defendants is Monroe’s Carol Powell-Lexing.

Ruston Lincoln C of C Press Release

03/28/2012

March 28, 2012
For Immediate Release

Media Contact:

Nancy A. Bergeron
Communications
Ruston-Lincoln Chamber of Commerce
(318) 255-2031
nbergeron@rustonlincoln.org

Chamber board opposes sales tax proposal, backs renewals

The Ruston-Lincoln Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors has voted to oppose the quarter-cent sales tax being proposed by the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office.

The business leaders say while they understand the importance of good law enforcement, now it not the time for a new tax.

“During these economic times, we thought this was not a good time to be taxing people further,” Chamber President Scott Terry said.

The proposed tax is on the April 21 ballot, along with three property tax renewals – each of which the chamber board endorsed. One of the renewals is for the sheriff’s office; the other two for parish public schools. The proposed tax renewals are just that – renewals of existing taxes and not new levies.

Terry said each of the property tax renewals provides money necessary for the respective public bodies do their jobs.

“The sheriff’s office, has financial needs just like so many other governmental entities,” he said. “That’s why we endorsed, and we hope people will vote for, the renewal of the property tax millage. We simply thought a new sales tax was too much of a financial burden.”

The law enforcement property tax, if renewed, would generate about $2.7 million annually with the proceeds dedicated to drug educations, prevention and enforcement; personnel, training, equipment, and office operations. Funds from the millage make up about 40 percent of the sheriff’s department budget.

The proposed sales tax would generate an estimated $1.8 million annually for the sheriff’s office.

In supporting the two education renewals, the chamber board said the money would help Lincoln Parish schools remain fiscally viable and able to meet their needs.

“Keeping with our mission to help create a healthy business environment, an educated workforce is important to this region,” Terry said. “Lincoln Parish schools have done a good job in the past, and we believe will continue their quest for education excellence. The board of the chamber endorses the passage of the two millage issues.”

One of the renewals provides funds to help maintain and operate schools in the Ruston School District, primarily those inside Ruston, while the other millage is a parishwide levy that helps with textbook purchase, school bus operation, small construction projects, and summer and remedial programs no longer funded by the state.

The Ruston district millage generates approximately $594,000 annually. The parishwide millage brings in about $3.6 million each year.

All three of the renewals would be for 10 years.

– 30 –

Ruston Lincoln C of C Opposes Sheriff’s Tax Hike

03/28/2012

The Board of Directors for the Ruston Lincoln Chamber of Commerce has voted overwhelmingly to oppose Lincoln Parish Sheriff Mike Stone’s $1.8 million, 1/4 cent sales tax hike, Chamber President and CEO Scott Terry this morning told Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO).

Terry said that the board was not opposed to the three other property tax “renewals” that will be on the Saturday, April 21 ballot. Two are for the Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB) and the other is for the Lincoln Parish Sheriff’s Office.

Terry also said that the chamber will be releasing a statement later today. LPNO will post that statement when it is released.

Higher Ed Roundup – 3/28/12

03/28/2012

The Great LSU Restructuring Of 2013

DA Stewart Threatens Jackson Parish Police Jury

03/28/2012

Second Judicial (Bienville, Claiborne, Jackson parishes) District Attorney Jonathan Stewart last week threatened the Jackson Parish Police Jury (JPPJ) with a lawsuit if the jury does not accede to his demand for an immediate appropriation of $50 thousand for his office to counter what he claims is a “financial crisis.”

If either or both Jackson Parish and Claiborne Parish refuse to pay this additional $50,000.00 assessment, then I will have no other choice but to file a mandamus suit requesting our Court to order the Police Juries to full fund my office. The law is very clear and the Police Juries will be required to pay all reasonable expenses of the office.

See here Stewart’s 03/20/2012 letter.

Stewart had appeared at a 02/06/2012 meeting of the JPPJ’s Finance Committee with his initial verbal request. He made similar requests of the other juries in the 2nd JD, the Claiborne Parish Police Jury (CPPJ) and the Bienville Parish Police Jury (BPPJ).

Reportedly, the BPPJ has buckled to Stewart’s demands.

JPPJ President Todd Culpepper (Ward One) responded to Stewart, advising him that:

During your presentation you stated that your business manager, Mr. Audie Edwards, was ill and was unable to attend to give further details and answer detailed questions regarding the financial conditions of your office. You indicated at the conclusion of your presentation to the finance committee that you and Mr. Edwards would be attending our regular jury meeting to be conducted on Monday, February 13, 2012 to answer questions and to formally present your request to the entire body. However, you nor Mr. Edwards showed up at the meeting.

Culpepper noted that Stewart’s letter represented Stewart’s first formal request since the February meeting, and that the jury would review the matter and be requesting further information from his office.

See here Culpepper’s 03/22/2012 letter.

KTVE-TV10 Report on Jonesboro

03/27/2012

Fiscal Administrator Recommended to Oversee Jonesboro’s Finances

The State Treasurer says the Town of Jonesboro should have a fiscal administrator to oversee the town’s finances.

The State Treasurer and two other members of the state’s fiscal review committee including the Attorney General and Legislative Auditor voted unanimously in favor of the town having a financial overseer, during a public meeting in Baton Rouge Monday afternoon.

Ruston Elementary Schools to be Rezoned?

03/27/2012

The elementary schools in the Ruston District of the Lincoln Parish school system may be rezoned, according to people who are closely monitoring the situation, and who spoke with Lincoln Parish News Online (LPNO). The action is in regard to a consent decree reached in Copeland v Lincoln Parish School Board. See here some history of the case.

The four elementary schools in the Ruston District are: Glen View, on Bittersweet Avenue near Cooktown Road; Cypress Springs, on Saratoga Street near South Maple Street; Hillcrest, on East Kentucky Avenue; and Ruston Elementary, on North Bernard Street near East Mississippi Avenue.

Also under discussion is Alma J. Brown Elementary lab school, Grambling Middle Magnet School, and Grambling High School – all at Grambling State University (GSU) – and the A. E. Phillips Elementary lab school at Louisiana Tech University (LTU).

One of the plans under discussion, sources say, is to “pair” the four Ruston District elementary schools.

Ruston Elementary and Cypress Springs Elementary are both nearly 90% Black, while Hillcrest and Glen View are predominately White, but not to as great a degree – about 60% average for the two.

That plan would combine the six grades of each pair – Ruston and Hillcrest; Cypress Springs and Glen View – and have K through 2 grades attend one school, and grades 3 through 5 attend the other.

A U. S. District Court status report notes:

Of most concern is the predominantly black Ruston Elementary attendance zone, which is, in fact, two non-contiguous zones to the north and south of the geographically compact and predominantly white Hillcrest attendance zone. The two Ruston Elementary zones are approximately five miles apart at their nearest points. The Hillcrest zone also directly borders the predominantly black Cypress Springs zone. The district’s transfer policy, which permits intra-district transfers for a range of factors and in practice enables many white students to transfer from majority-black to majority-white schools, further exacerbates the racial identifiability of the elementary schools.

The use of two non-contiguous attendance zones for Ruston Elementary School requires that African American students who reside in the northern zone must be transported through the racially integrated Glen View Elementary School attendance zone and through and/or past the predominantly white Hillcrest Elementary School attendance zone to get to Ruston Elementary School, which is physically located in the southern zone. In addition to furthering the racial identifiability of Ruston Elementary School and Hillcrest Elementary School, this practice places an excessive burden on black students in the northern Ruston Elementary zone, who must travel significantly greater distances to get to school than white students in the small Hillcrest zone.

Also mentioned in the report are the faculty assignments for the schools.

See here the 05/24/2011 Status Report.

The Lincoln Parish School Board (LPSB) has held numerous meetings on the issue over the past two years, but all have been in executive session and have not been open to the public. No board members have seen fit to inform their constituents and taxpayers of any proposed plans.

The report also mentions the condition of the Grambling lab schools and the lack of involvement by the LPSB in their operation and support.

An October response by the plaintiffs suggests remedies for the Grambling labs schools:

(1) The construction of new facilities at Grambling State University by the Lincoln Parish School Board for operation as a Laboratory School;
(2) An increase in funding to the Grambling Lab Schools by the Lincoln Parish School Board to cover tuition costs for students who are unable to pay; and
(3) Proactive cooperation by the Lincoln Parish School Board in the recruitment of white students and teachers.

See here the plaintiff response dated 10/17/2011.

The LPSB submitted a response also, and suggested that:

…the School Board has no legal authority to control what happens at the laboratory schools. The obligation to provide those Parish students who choose to go to a university laboratory school with the desired educational opportunities – including unitary school operations – rests squarely on the owners and operators of those schools: Grambling and Louisiana Tech.

See here the defendants response dated 10/17/2011.

Parents that have spoken to LPNO say that decisions they may have made to relocate into a high-scoring school zone (and pay higher housing costs) could be negated by the proposed plans. Here are the School Performance Scores (SPS) for the four schools.

Cypress Springs: 84
Glen View: 103
Ruston Elem: 69
Hillcrest: 118

Fiscal Review Committee Video Archive

03/26/2012

See here the link for today’s meeting – 03/26/2012.